Fire & Knives

by Michael Alderete on 5/17/2005

I was just referred to the Fire & Knives cooking and food site with the “recommendation” that “Here’s a nice little food site that is snobbier than youse guys…” I decided it was a keeper when I laughed out loud at this description of wonder bread in a new shape:

Cunning bakers have responded, not with an authentic baguette but with a preservative-laden, turd-shaped travesty called — with callous humour — a French Stick. It’s exactly the same rubbish they extrude into white loaves but delivered in a staggeringly inconvenient shape. Trying to eat a sandwich made with one is like trying to fellate a torpedo.

But where he really got me was with his description of real fast food, as in, food prepared by a short order cook. In Boston last year I sat at the counter in Charlie’s Sandwich Shop, and watched one man prepare maybe 35 dishes while I waited for and then ate my breakfast. The cook, who reminded me of Robert Forster, was an absolute machine, keeping as many as 8-10 dishes on the stove and griddle at once, keeping everything going in parallel, but staggered so as to bring each table up together, without making other dishes wait and get cold.

Most impressively, he never seemed hurried, let alone overwhelmed. Indeed, when a second guy showed up to help plate finished dishes, it seemed like the two of them were less efficient than the cook had been by himself. It was amazing. Although I’ve eaten at the kitchen table at Charlie Trotter’s, where I’ve seen fine food at its finest, that morning in Charlie’s Sandwich Shop was the virtuoso cooking performance I’ve seen in my life.

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